TCPA and Contacting Your Next Lead
While express consent has always been required for calling your insurance leads, the new Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which takes effect Wednesday, October 16, 2013, basically permits agents to call a customer’s cell phone only with express written consent. For any agent about to pick up the phone and dial, it is more important than ever to know if an acceptable disclosure was present on the internet lead form that the customer filled out, as well as whether or not the consumer provided express consent to be contacted by the lead buyer.
Naturally, this begs the question of what is valid consumer consent, both for agents like us, who want to legally contact our leads, as well as attorneys, who have the potential for class action lawsuits. I advise agents become familiar with the following information:
- What is TCPA?
The TCPA passed into law in 1991. The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is empowered to issue rules and regulations implementing the TCPA. Among other things, the TCPA allows individuals to file lawsuits and collect damages for receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls, faxes, pre-recorded calls or autodialed calls.
- What is a Telemarketing Call?
“Telemarketing” calls include those made by advertisers that offer or market products/services to consumers. Purely informational calls and calls for non-commercial purposes are exempt from the FCC’s regulations.
- What is an Autodialed Call?
An autodialed call is a phone call, involving a live person or pre-recorded message, that is placed using an “autodialer,” or automatic telephone dialing system, that can produce, store and call telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator. The autodialed call definition should be broadly construed in an effort to avoid unwanted litigation and regulatory action. For instance, if you are using any type of call-center software as part of your telemarketing operations, you may be using an autodialer within the FCC’s definition. If you are unsure, I recommend consulting with an attorney who has expertise in telemarketing law.
- What are the New TCPA Rules? In a Report and Order approved on February 15, 2012, the FCC adopted additional protections for consumers concerning unwanted autodialed and/or robocalls. Read the changes to the TCPA. Essentially, the new changes require documented and stored proof of consumer consent. Any lead in your CRM that is not TCPA compliant (meaning any lead up until now) can only be dialed by using one’s fingers; therefore, all aged-lead vendor’s inventory is obsolete, since most agents making these kinds of leads purchasing use an autodialer to work the leads. But agents need to also keep in mind it is illegal to use autodialers that are not TCPA compliant. Moreover, agents will not only have to manually dial their customers but also review screenshots of consent forms to ensure validity, which sacrifices speed-to-contact, making it even more difficult for organizations to meet sales goals. Speed to contact was the single largest driver of lead conversation, according to Leads360 (Velocify).Keep in mind, with TCPA the caller bears the burden, as far as the law is concerned, and many insurance companies are placing the implementation of the new TCPA requirements in the agent’s hands. If your dialer software facilitates storage of numbers with a single key press, you are likely using ATDS, though the law makes it vague what an ATDS is considered to be, so be careful! Even an iPhone might possibly be considered an ATDS. And there are very strict rules against calling cell phones without prior consent. The TCPA provides for either actual damages or statutory damages ranging from $500.00 to $1,500.00 per unsolicited call and/or message. And as an agent running their small business, it’s useless to speculate whether or not these laws and fines will actually be enforced. Each agent needs to ensure they have a written process for their associates and employees—make sure to have this in a prominent place in your agency handbook, as well.Finally, it might be wise to reconsider how you obtain lead information. Make sure your leads are from sources that ensure your customer’s consent has been received, validated, and stored for you. My advice is to work with trusted partners who guarantee their lead quality and have the technology to protect you (we use our own internal and third-party verification systems to check whether phones numbers are legitimate or are cell phone numbers, as well as consumer intent, which helps us weed out bad leads). And keep in mind, it often takes agents at least a second try to contact a lead. Yet, most agents call a lead only once. In order to be successful, you’ll need to reattempt contact and employ other strategies. I can tell you that agents with email drip-marketing campaigns for current & aged leads are showing a lot of success in generating more business. Direct mail using post cards, versus something in an envelope, also has a much higher success rate.
Remember, even if the law doesn’t make sense, we still have to follow it, so we have to stay informed and help each other with questions and feedback, and don’t forget, you can always talk to me!